From Twins' slugfest to Orioles' shellacking, the many ways 2019 is a historic year for home runs
The 2019 season continues to see balls leave the park at an unprecedented pace
As Bryce Harper's recent acutely reminded us, baseball is a power game in 2019. That of course is directly reflected by the downright indecent pace at which baseballs are clearing fences this season. While Barry Bonds' single-season record of 73 is perfectly safe, records at the team and league level are poised to totter and fall.
To set the scene for stretch drive, let's take a quick walking tour of some of those imperiled marks:
The league will hit more home runs than ever before
Even though we've got roughly six weeks of regular season remaining, the 2019 season is already one of just 14 in which at least 5,000 home runs were hit. At this writing, we've seen 5,109 home runs in 2019, and that ranks 10th all-time among seasons. Teams in 2019 are averaging 1.40 home runs per game, which will easily break the all-time mark of 1.26 set in 2017. Scale that out, and the 2019 season will easily break the current record of 6,105 home runs in 2017. Right now, we're on pace to see 6,804 homers. There's breaking a record and then there's crushing it into a fine powder. That's what's going to happen in 2019. Heck, a modest uptick in pace, and we could see the heretofore unseen 7,000-homer mark threatened.
Home runs as a percentage of runs scored are at unprecedented levels
The home-run boom of 2019 isn't just about a rising run-scoring tide lifting all boats. Overall, teams are scoring 4.86 runs per game this season. That's an above-average figure across baseball history, but it's not particularly close to the highest to the top of the runs-per-game list. As already noted, though, 2019 has seen the most home runs on a rate basis ever. As such, home runs this season are more integral to run scoring than ever before.
Over at Baseball Prospectus they track the percentage of a team's runs scored that result from home runs. (For reasons explained here, they call it the "Guillen Number.") Anyhow, if you eyeball the ten teams with highest Guillen Number of all-time -- i.e., the highest percentage of a team's runs that come via the homer -- then you'll find that teams from 2019 occupy nine of the those top 14 spots. The 2019 Blue Jays are No. 1 on that list, and the current Twins model is No. 4.
And speaking of the Twins ...
The Twins, thick in the AL Central race, are famously the top home run-hitting team of 2019. Right now, the Twins lead MLB with 236 home runs. The record for home runs by a team in a single season is 267 by the 2018 Yankees. The Twins are right now on pace to crush that mark. They're averaging just under two homers per game, and that puts them on pace for 316 (!) home runs this season.
Obviously, we've never seen a 300-homer team before, but this season we've got a shot at having two of them. Not all that far behind the Twins are the Yankees with 222 home runs, and that puts them on a 292-home run pace. A slight uptick gets them there, and the prospect of getting Giancarlo Stanton, Edwin Encarnacion, Aaron Hicks, and perhaps Luke Voit back for most of September figures to help their pace. In all, four teams -- the Twins, Yankees, Dodgers, and Astros -- are on pace to surpass the current record of 267 home runs.
And speaking of the Dodgers ...
The NL is of course the non-DH league, which tamps down on offense and by extension home run outputs. Speaking of which, the NL single-season record for home runs by a team belongs to the 2000 Astros with 249. (Yes, the Astros were not so long ago a National League squadron.) As implied above, the Dodgers lead the NL in home runs, and they do so with a current tally of 211, and that puts them on pace for an NL-record total of 278. This is another example of a record being not only broken but ritually humiliated in the town square.
Let's not forget the Orioles
The lamentable 2019 Orioles are already one of just two teams to have allowed at least 250 home runs in a season. The all-time record for home runs allowed in a season belongs to the 2016 Reds, who allowed 258. The O's here in mid-August have allowed an even 250, which puts them on pace for ... 334 home runs allowed. Please extend your sympathies as you note they're headed toward breaking the record by 30 percent or so.
Lots of team home run records will fall
Our own Matt Snyder recently looked at, so now let's look at team-wide records. As you would expect given what we've already covered, a number of clubs are on pace to break franchise records for home runs in a season at the team level. Here's a current list of teams in pace to set new records in 2019 (current record in parentheses):
|TEAM||2019 HR TOTAL||CURRENT RECORD|
236 in 2019 (previously 225 in 1963)
267 in 2018
235 in 2018
249 in 2000
235 in 2003
238 in 2003
243 in 1996
231 in 2007
235 in 2004
189 in 2017
224 in 2017
220 in 2017
222 in 2005
215 in 2017
171 in 1999
Those numbers include the totality of franchise history (e.g., the Dodgers' includes their Brooklyn days, and the Nationals' includes their Montreal Expos iteration). As you can see, exactly half of MLB's teams are on pace to set new records for home runs in a season. In the Twins' case, they've already done it. The Padres are on 183 homers at the moment, so they could have a new record by the weekend.
Benchmark seasons abound
When it comes to reaching thresholds like 10-, 20-, 30-, 40-, and even 50-homer seasons, we've got a bumper crop in our midst. Already in 2019, 223 hitters have reached double digits in home runs; 76 have hit 20 or more, and 13 have hit 30 or more. With a major assist from the Baseball-Reference Play Index, let's see what kinds of records we're on pace to set ...
|Tier||Current record in a season||2019 pace|
Four (2001, 1998)
As you can see, the 2019 season is on pace to break the record for numbers of 10-, 20, and 30-home run hitters and tie when it comes to the numbers of 40- and 50-homer hitters. As for that latter exclusive category, Cody Bellinger, Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, and Pete Alonso are all on target to get to 50.
Let's frame it another way. In 2018, we set a record when 536 different players homered. Thus far in 2019, 496 different players have homered. That puts us on pace for 662 players with at least one home run. Throw in the expanded rosters in September, and it's entirely possible we'll get there.
On the other side, 2018 occasioned a record when 700 different pitchers allowed a home run. The 2019 season is already second on that list with a total of 679 victimized pitchers. Again, we're on pace to crush that record, and given some late-year roster churn we could make a run 900 different pitchers having been taken deep.
Much of this flows from hitters focusing on driving the ball in the air and the juiced-up rabbit ball currently in play in MLB. For those reasons, we're seeing home runs like never before, which is acutely obvious at the league and team levels. Is it too much of a good thing? That's a debate for the offseason, after a veritable forest of records have been felled.
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